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Hollywood is rife with jokes about writers — and the punchline of all of them is how powerless they are. But as this list of the 25 most influential authors in entertainment proves, no one in the industry is laughing anymore. “The demand for creators and underlying material has never been stronger,” says Howie Sanders, UTA partner and co-head of the book department, of the race to acquire the rights to books and magazine articles for film and TV.
The success of Game of Thrones (penned by No. 4, George R.R. Martin), FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson (No. 20, Jeffrey Toobin) and 11/22/63 (No. 2, Stephen King) has fueled an interest in longform storytelling on cable and streaming services. The next year will see such high-profile series as Margaret Atwood’s (No. 16) The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, Neil Gaiman’s (No. 9) American Gods on Starz and Liane Moriarty’s (No. 18) Big Little Lies on HBO.
And the competition to make THR’s list (book sales, number of adaptations, projects in development, additional credits and cultural influence all were considered to determine the rank- ings) is tougher than ever, with incumbency providing little advantage. Eleven authors — nearly half — are new to the list since THR last ranked Hollywood’s pens in 2014, including Ernest Cline (No. 12), whose Ready Player One is in production with Steven Spielberg directing, Paula Hawkins (No. 19), whose The Girl on the Train is one of this fall’s most anticipated movies, and Lauren Oliver (No. 23), whose hot YA hit Before I Fall arrives in theaters in April.
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